Saturday, 27 January 2018

Still skiing in St Jean d’Aulps – Days 91 to 101

Small trees laden with frozen wet, deep snow
It’s been ten days since our last blog entry and, in that time we’ve been out skiing for six of them and been housebound for the other four due to pretty bad weather, the same storms that have swept through the UK and most of Europe causing damage and flooding to many areas have affected us here. 

Skiing good powder between weather fronts
As the weather front came over on 16th it was warm, falling as snow only above about 1600m with rain below, but quickly cooled down to give us lots of snow right down below our 950m level, covering everything in white, with large amounts at higher levels. All looking good we thought, but as it passed over the freezing level rose again so the tail end fell as snow at higher altitudes with rain below, washing away all the snow at our level of 950m. 
Frozen snowy rocks in very cold Chatel
We had two days (20th and 21st) with little precipitation but with fog and increasing wind, so we went out to enjoy the fresh snow and it was pretty good with most resorts open, however another front came over dropping huge amounts of snow again with high winds, enough to close virtually every ski lift in the entire area except low lying lifts. We decided to stay in! Again, the tail end of the front was warm and huge amounts of rain fell for a day, closing virtually everything for a second day. The rain changed the fresh powder snow into heavy wet snow which froze overnight making it look like a white concrete brain (if you can imagine such a thing) and raising the avalanche risk to 5, the highest level.

Then it cleared and warmed up and we had these beautiful scenes
The next day, the 23rd, was a beautiful day, clear blue sky and little wind, but we didn’t hurry out as we knew most higher areas would still be closed due to the very high risk of avalanche. As the day wore on the resort staff worked very hard to clear avalanches, remove fallen trees, plough areas to allow sufficient room for the chair lists to clear the high levels of snow and groom the pistes to make them skiable. By lunchtime most areas were open and the piste skiing very good, but sadly off-piste was very unpleasant.

The deep snow brought by the storms closed a lot of slopes though
We’ve now got very unbalanced snow depths at different altitudes, above about 1300m the snow is very deep and, with higher temperatures the off piste is quite good with the sun softening the snow by afternoon, but below this level there’s almost no snow off-piste, with only hard packed pistes, which are like ice in the mornings and very soft in the afternoons, which then clump into big moguls as skiers move the snow. It’s possible to ski at high levels for most of the day, only needing to negotiate a lower piste to get home in the afternoon, but it becomes a problem if wanting to really travel through the resorts as it is then necessary to go to lower slopes in order to get to an adjacent resort. If it’s a popular route and one that faces the sun, the low slopes are almost stripped of snow with earth colouring the snow brown, making some route quite unpleasant.

Not much view out of this window, the snows too deep!
So, not to complain, the weather for the next week is fine, warm and sunny, promising a very good week of great skiing, with good off-piste, just as long as we stay above about 1300m. Although virtually everywhere is open and it should be possible to do very long day trips covering many miles and resorts, we just need to be a little careful when travelling a bit lower. However, that’s a small price to pay to what are really very nice conditions. Skiing is warm sunshine with crystal clear mountain views and deep blue skies does take some beating!

With great weather and views we just wanted to take photos
Off the slopes we’ve enjoyed the company of cats, birds and Gizmo dog and had a very pleasant evening in L’Enfanle bar eating ribs, drinking beer and watching a live band, all within 2 minutes walk of our apartment block. Jackie has cooked some stunning meals and we’ve enjoyed vin chaud and cake most days. Today we helped Haig and Gabby change Si and Cassie’s chalet for the next guests while they took their previous guests back to Geneva airport and collect the new ones. The sun came out this afternoon so we walked two minutes to the Grand Terche lift, clipped on our skis and did a quick 10km circuit of our resort with stunning views.

Lots of them. Here's a cloud inversion with white peaks poking through the cloud
Don’t think there’s anything else to add, but no doubt Jackie will remind me when she reads through this…

She’s nothing to add – result!

What about this one taken this afternoon at the top of our local resort in St Jean d'Aulps? The mountain on the right in the distance is Mont Blanc
I could go on and on as every corner we turn there are more superb views like this. This one is in Chatel with the black run Barbossine heading off down to the left

One of the resorts is Chapelle d'Abondance and all the pistes are named after animals. This one is Sanglier, which translates as wild boar and the little white shape above the '6' is a drawing of a wild boar. I think Jackie is trying to do an impression. Do her hands look like tusks to you?

This is Calico cat eating the crumbs of a cake that I had put out for the birds

A final photo. This one is in our local resort this afternoon when we popped out for a quick 10km circuit. This is on the return half at the top of the Follys col. Ahead is a flat plateau that is actually the main St Jean ski area at the top of the 'bubble' we catch by our apartment. The next lift goes up from the plateau to the right to the next peak and then we ski off down to the right way out of sight and catch two more lifts up behind us to get here to this col. Ahead we have a fabulous red piste that takes us all the way down the vaklley to the left, back to our apartment. It takes about an hour to do only the circuit (there are many deviations on the way to make it longer if required) and takes in some great skiing from blue to black levels and spectacular scenery


1 comment:

  1. Fab pictures both. Glad you are still having fun. We have had a wet spell but now back into a cold spell. Frosty last few evenings and Ian had to scrape the car this morning. Brrr!
    Lots of love from us and Monty Dog. Xxx